With Joseph gone, it’s on Elway to fix the Broncos (column)
The sacrifice has been offered to the masses.
The Broncos did their duty in tossing head coach Vance Joseph to the curb on Monday.
Did he deserve dismissal? Probably.
While Denver wasn’t a Super Bowl contender, the Broncos underperformed at 6-10, and circled the drain with four-straight losses, a stretch that included no-shows against the hapless 49ers and Raiders, to finish the season.
The Broncos seemed to play up or down to their competition, beating the Chargers and Steelers, hanging with the Chiefs and Texans, yet avoiding a season sweep at the hands of the Raiders by a fourth-quarter rally in Week 2.
In retrospect, the tell was Week 5, when the eventually 4-12 Jets whooped up on the Broncos, 34-16. Teams with postseason aspirations beat the snot out of Gang Green. The Broncos were caught napping, a portent of the later indignities of the season.
If the Broncos just beat the teams they are meant to beat (Jets, Niners, Browns and Raiders), they’re 10-6, and this column is a wild-card preview.
Denver wasn’t prepared to play those games and that’s why the franchise is looking for a new coach.
Still need a QB
Joseph was General Manager John Elway’s pick to lead the next era of Broncos football and No. 7 whiffed.
He’s also whiffed on finding a quarterback, the biggest issue facing the franchise since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after the 2015 Super Bowl, via the draft or free agency.
Paxton Lynch was meant to be The Next when he was selected in the first round back in 2016. He didn’t last through last summer’s training camp.
Case Keenum was the marquee signing as the savior before this season, but clearly proved himself insufficient to carry a football team.
The irony of the greatest quarterback in Broncos history not being able to find a quarterback is telling.
While the coach is a handy scapegoat, Elway is still responsible for supplying the team with talent, and his record is a mixed bag. Maybe a more experienced coach gets the 2018 Broncos into the playoffs, but they weren’t going deep into January with this talent.
Elway has to be held to account for this.
With substantial financial commitments to Von Miller (and deservedly so) and Keenum (not so much, but the Broncos owe him $21 million for 2019), Elway has to draft well to keep under the salary cap.
Hits and misses
Dating back to 2012, when he became the executive vice president of football operations, his drafts have been mediocre.
His first-round picks have been Sylvester Williams (2013, bust), Bradley Roby (2014, good), Shane Ray (2015, bust), Lynch (2016, super bust), Garett Bolles (2017, in a generous appraisal, leaning toward bust) and Bradley Chubb (2018, outstanding). The Broncos are paying for that void.
In fairness to Elway, he’s probably coming off his best draft last spring since 2012, which he did with Brian Xanders.
In 2012, two second-rounders reaped Derek Wolfe and Brock Osweiler as well as running-back Ronnie Hillman in the third round. Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan were steals in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, that year.
That spray of picks had depth in talent and value with regard to the salary cap.
Last spring, Chubb came in the first round, and he had 12 sacks and seems to be an excellent complement to Miller. Courtland Sutton, in the second, allowed the Broncos to send Demaryius Thomas to Houston midseason.
Third-rounder Royce Freeman and free-agent Phillip Lindsay have given the team an inexpensive rushing attack when the offensive line allows. (Large commitments to running backs are killers to the salary cap.)
Elway has to hit with the Broncos’ first-rounder (No. 10) this spring as well as deeper in the draft. The quarterback free-agent market isn’t encouraging with the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor being the “highlights.”
Can Elway pry Joe Flacco from the Ravens with Lamar Jackson leading Baltimore to the playoffs? Does he even want Flacco? Does Elway use the No. 10 pick for a quarterback?
If he doesn’t get this right, it may not matter who’s coaching the Broncos next season.